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Breakfast Roundtables with National Experts: Notes from "Financial Capability"

OCTOBER 25-26, 2012 | ST. LOUIS, MO.


Mae Watson Grote
Founder and Executive Director
The Financial Clinic

Louisa Quittman
Financial Education, Office of Consumer Policy
U.S. Department of the Treasury

MichaeI Rochelle, Jr.
Project Director, Financial Capability and Asset Building
Center for Social Development
Washington University in St. Louis


The discussion centered on the philosophy and theory of the future of financial capability and accepting that financial education alone does not lead to better financial outcomes. Questions asked included how do we define financial capability? Where are the trusted institutions? What is good policy?


  • The Financial Clinic is attempting to on-ramp people toward better financial outcomes by giving them access to financial coaches. Participants are assessed based on assets, banking access, credit availability (credit scores), debt levels and tax advantages. The stated vision includes capacity building, policy and research, and recruiting (i.e., through its fellowship program).
  • Part of the Treasury's mission is safeguarding the strength of the economy. One of the ways this can be done is by addressing financial capability through combining the resources and performing research. For example, is a site dedicated to teaching Americans the basics of financial education. This is an important aspect of financial capability that needs to start early with children.
  • The Center for Social Development is really aimed at asset building, but they are also getting involved in financial access, looking at how social work as a field can get back to addressing financial capability. Specifically, CSD is working with different societal groups with a focus on cultural competency and looking at ways to drive macro policies to an individual level.
  • How do you foster the behavioral changes necessary to positively affect money management? Households have other issues people have to deal with before they set their finances. Hope may be a significant factor that drives behavioral changes.
  • There are three legs to the financial capability stool: Knowledge, psychology and access. Being of sound finances has the potential to affect health outcomes.
  • The public needs good trainers. Trainers matter more than curriculum, which should be based on guidelines and needs to be flexible. Additionally, financial education is increasingly being taught in schools, although many teachers do not feel qualified to teach the subject matter.
  • Most of financial education should be done within a household. Home is the basis of society – what you learn there is most important.


"People cannot balance their checkbooks if their hair is on fire."


  • How do you reconcile the consistency of data with programming? We need stories (as well as data), clarity around outcomes that will drive policy, and policy action before a complete model is defined.
  • How do you effectively integrate the programs with the target population?
  • Participants left with a renewed, resurgent energy based on core competencies instead of financial education curriculum.

Other Breakfast Roundtable session notes:
Tax-Time Strategies
Municipal Strategies
Government Payments and Public Assistance Programs

Back to the conference materials and agenda »